Whether the words are leaving your lips, a partner has said it to you, or you’ve simply heard it on TV, the phrases “not tonight”, “I’m too tired” or “I have a headache” are familiar when it comes to turning down a bit of hanky-panky.
As Shervin Assari, Research Investigator of Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, reveals in an in-depth piece for The Conversation, there may be many reasons one could be avoiding sex with their partner. Some of which, he says, can be easily addressed.
Current research has shown that women are more likely than men to avoid a sexual encounter, with 40 per cent admitting to doing so at one point or another, citing low libido, fatigue, lack of interest or pain as the reasoning.
For men, the justifications were a little different.
Think erectile dysfunction and lack of opportunity.
For both, however, it was medical conditions that topped the list. “For example, heart disease patients often avoid sex because they are afraid of a heart attack,” Assari says.
Other common conditions among both sexes included chronic pain, obesity, poor sleep quality and hormonal imbalances which can sometimes be influenced by medications such as anti-depressants.
What’s more, loneliness is said to play a part in reducing the opportunity for intimacy. When a person is feeling lonely, Assari says they’ll often turn to pornography, which he says may negatively impact sexual performance over a period of time.
“Many older adults do not engage in sex because of shame and feelings of guilt or simply because they think they are ‘too old for sex.’ However, it would be wrong to assume that older adults are not interested in engaging in sex,” he says.
So, what’s the solution?
Well, you guessed it, communication.
“Few people talk with their doctors about their sexual problems. Indeed, at least half of all medical visits do not address sexual issues,” he says.
And while Assari acknowledges that many patients are too busy to take the time to discus sexual issues with their healthcare professionals, or are put off due to embarrassment or fear of closeness, he encourages us all to eschew the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, and instead adopt a ‘do ask, do tell’ mindset.